Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Book 'Em Danno


Since I got tagged by O-Dub, here's my take on the Summer Reading meme.

1. One book that changed my life:
City of Quartz by Mike Davis


Really, I could fill tens of thousands of blog entries with all the books that have changed my life, starting with Henry and Martha's Subway Art and Steven Hager's Hip-Hop and moving on up.

I picked City of Quartz because I might never have gone down the path that led to Can't Stop Won't Stop if I hadn't read this in late 1991/early 1992, just before I moved to LA to enroll in the Asian American Studies program at UCLA. It made it possible for me to understand William Gibson, Compton's Most Wanted, and social ecology all at once.

As a transforming work in the field of geography, a map of hidden histories, a manual for change, and perhaps most appealing of all to me, a nonfiction noir, City of Quartz taught me that intellectual work could be made accessible, relevant, and if it was really great, perhaps even prophetic. Since that time, I've met hundreds of people--from urban planners to gang peacemakers--who have read it and feel exactly the same way I do about it.

(It's being re-released in a new edition this September. See link above.)

2. One book you have read more than once:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X


I bet that if you polled our part of the blog universe, this book would probably would be at the top of the first three categories on this list for most of us. I read it in one of my first freshman seminars, and it dropped me off the fence and into anti-apartheid/anti-racist activism. I don't know how many times I've reread it since--the pages are brittle and the binding is pretty worn. Might be time to get another copy.

3. One book you would want on a desert island:
Palomar by Gilbert Hernandez


Nothing like Heartbreak Soup, comfort food for los perdidos, to ease the feeling of being stranded. Where are these desert islands anyway? And is there good surfing to be had?

4. One book that made you laugh:
Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed


I know folks will be running out to see "Idlewild" this weekend. If it's a fraction as funny as Mumbo Jumbo it could be a masterpiece. Mumbo Jumbo had that promethean spirit we ascribe these days to hip-hop's old school, just like the Jes Grew virus that drives the narrative, and in fact, I think the emerging hip-hop literature comes back down to this book. But it's also a really nuanced, coded novel, another book that repays multiple reads. It's like a Richard Pryor or a Ghostface album, actually, where the deeper you go beyond the laughs, the better it gets.

Gotta also mention Lalo Alcaraz's La Cucaracha, the funniest illegal comic strip in the world, and anything by Keith Knight.

5. One book that made you cry:
American Purgatorio by John Haskell


A novel about one modern man's descent into a living hell after the death of his wife. The book begins in a clinical and tic-ridden kind of voice, but it's soon apparent that there's something very wrong with the narrator. I didn't weep so much as I felt really melancholy for a long time after reading this.

6. One book that you wish you had written:
The Retreat From Race by Dana Takagi and Bitter Fruit by Claire Jean Kim


I never could have written these books. Both are by brilliant scholars who confronted and explained some of the most vexing, perplexing issues I have ever encountered. In both cases, I was too young and too close to understand what was really going on. Professor Takagi and Professor Kim's books sorted it all out for me.

Dana's book did a post-mortem on the late-80s Asian American fair college admissions movement that I was deeply involved in, and it turned out to be a prophetic look at the death of affirmative action. As progressive Asian Americans we wanted to fight discrimination in admissions to elite universities and, more importantly, to throw into question the entire false idea of meritocracy. But we unwittingly set in motion right-wing forces who eventually were able to destroy affirmative action. Now, the meritocracy myth is stronger than ever. We won the battle, and lost the war.

Professor Kim's book took a hard look at Black-Asian relations through the lens of the Flatbush boycott. She went back to the scene and interviewed all the principals involved--including Sonny Carson, the late father of Professor X and a central activist in Brooklyn's Black Power Movement. Many progressives of color--Black and Asian both--distanced themselves or denounced Carson during the 80s, but Claire refused to be intellectually dishonest, and so comes out with a portrait of the boycott that's incredibly balanced and only reinforces the tragedy of the failure of the Third World progressive movement.

I think both these books remain undersung classics of ethnic studies, but that would lead me into talking my disillusionment with ethnic studies, and that's another long thread for another time.

7. One book you wish you had never written:

I've only written one book so far and I'm not that mad at it!

8. One book you are currently reading:
River of Shadows by Rebecca Solnit


The San Francisco-based writer Rebecca Solnit has been called a next-gen Joan Didion, except to me she doesn't have any of the upper-class baggage (book critics may call it familiarity, I call it baggage...), and is decidedly and passionately progressive, never choosing to hide behind a mask of irony or detachment, a problem I sometimes have with Didion.

I first encountered her writing in Hollow City, an angry look at the Mission District and San Francisco and probably the best book on gentrification to come out of the millennial boom/bust, and again with this widely circulated essay on the anti-war movement, the basis for a book on activism called Hope In The Dark. River of Shadows came out in between and is just awe-inspiring.

It has been described as the story of a photographer (Eadward Muybridge) and a railroad robber baron (Leland Stanford) and how they came together to form the technological breakthroughs that led to both Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

But it's so much more than that--it's a history of the gold rush and the railroads, San Francisco and immigration, the Chinese and the city authorities, the Indian Wars in the Northern California lavabeds, the mythification of Yosemite Valley and the destruction of its indigenous people, the beginnings of photography, the beginnings of cinema, the relationship between art, capital, and science, the spread of realism and impressionism, modernity, speed, and a million other things. It answers questions I didn't even know I had.

It's weird to read a book on 19th century history and finish feeling you understand older obsessions such as DJ Spooky's Rhythm Science, Christopher Doyle or videos like this (Orbital's "The Box" dir. Jes Benstock and Luke Losey 1996) in a new way. Plus, it's written with the elegance and resonance of poetry.

(Postscript...Lourdes happened to rent Xiao Jiang's movie "Electric Shadows" this weekend, and it's really interesting to watch with the book. It kind of extends the River of Shadows narrative into modernist and then communist China. It's also a classic bittersweet Chinese tragedy with a weepy ending.)

9. One book you've been meaning to read:
Taylor Branch's MLK books and Robert Caro's LBJ books


If I can ever get myself a month of nothing to do and no money to have to make, I'm gonna read all 70,000 pages of these books, I swear.

10. Who I tagged:
Julianne (you still out there?), SFJ, Joe Twist, Forward Ever.

posted by Zentronix @ 5:23 AM   2 comments links to this post



Monday, August 21, 2006
Stuff and Things...

Don't worry Ted, Theo Epstein's running for the phone right now.

+ Why we're happy Billy got rid of Ted Lilly a while back.

+ If you're in Berkeley on Thursday, please join this very important conference:
Making Another World Possible:
Women Leaders in the Immigrant Rights, Global Justice, and Post-Katrina Reconstruction Efforts
.

+ The latest on Lt. Ehren Watada:
* Analysis
* News Updates

+ Rebecca Solnit on another Ted, the radical (in both senses of the word) architect Teddy Cruz
* Download PDF directly here.

+ Clamor Magazine vs. American Apparel. According to the Clamor staff, American Apparel has threatened legal action over a Clamor exposé of the company's business practices. You can continue to follow the case at the magazine's blog.

posted by Zentronix @ 8:10 PM   0 comments links to this post




Heard Ya Missed Me
Been away trying to get out, get relaxed, and get well.

That process is not over. Work is backing up, calls are going unanswered, things are getting cancelled, appointments are not being kept. I apologize. But I am on life's DL. Give me a couple of weeks and I'll be back like Huston Street.

At the same time, Blogger goes down and has some bizarre beta-testing going on with the dreaded Googlists. WTF?

So radio silence has reigned.

But life isn't all bad, especially in baseball. The A's are killing and the Red Sox are deader every day. (Somewhere in Walnut Creek, a bunch of investment bankers are quietly tossing their Ortiz jerseys and going online to order a Frank Thomas, right now.) The Yankees--all praises due to the Emperor--will collapse soon now that they have to leave Boston to face reality (first up, the AL West where real baseball gets played).

More fun and games this fall.

Stay tuned to this space.

posted by Zentronix @ 7:31 PM   6 comments links to this post

 

Previous posts
Coming Soon!
Notes On The Eve Of Day One
Students Occupy The New School
Farai Chideya's News And Notes on NPR Has Been Can...
I Am Nixon
Shouldna Lef Ya...
2G2K Is Back! :: On Hillary, Again, And Foreign Po...
The Impact of The Hip-Hop Vote
UCLA Education In Action Keynote Speech
A Great Day In Baseball History


select * from pages where handle = "BlogLinks" #content#

Archives
June 2002
July 2002
August 2002
September 2002
October 2002
November 2002
December 2002
January 2003
February 2003
March 2003
April 2003
May 2003
June 2003
July 2003
August 2003
September 2003
October 2003
November 2003
December 2003
January 2004
February 2004
March 2004
April 2004
May 2004
June 2004
July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
March 2005
April 2005
May 2005
June 2005
July 2005
August 2005
September 2005
October 2005
November 2005
December 2005
January 2006
February 2006
March 2006
April 2006
May 2006
June 2006
July 2006
August 2006
September 2006
October 2006
November 2006
December 2006
January 2007
February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
 

Email list

Add me to the Can't Stop Won't Stop email list, an irregular update of what's new in our world:

Submit